Arctic Ice Decline: A New “Pause”?

ArcticThe decline in Arctic sea ice has become an iconic symbol of global warming. You don’t have to look far on the internet to find predictions by scientists, campaigners and commentators about how soon the region will become ice free in the summer. Unfortunately for those predictions, the Arctic ice has not been listening.

The Arctic sea ice has probably reached its greatest extent for this year. It usually occurs at the end of March – last year it was March 21st. There have been some reports that this year’s maximum extent was the lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and it certainly looks low hovering around 13 million km2 for over a month, see Fig 1 (click on image to enlarge). But looking back over past behavior its maximum extent was similar last year and in 2011 and 2005-7 (Fig 2). Hence this year’s extent is not that unusual being similar to that observed ten years ago!

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Fig 1 (click to enlarge)

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Fig 2 (click to enlarge)

The extent of minimum sea ice is also doing something very interesting – there are hints of a “pause.”

When satellite observations of Arctic ice extent began in 1979 it was obvious that a long-term decline was already underway. That decline appeared to be monotonic until the mid-2000s when, for a while at least, it seemed to have accelerated. The ice extent in the summer of 2007 was a record low, and was accompanied by cries from some quarters of imminent collapse.

The same was said in 2012 when another low was observed. However 2012 was an unusual year as an intense storm occurred in August and its effects on concentrating the ice cover can be clearly seen in the data. Likewise 2007 was an exceptional year.

We now know that year had what was later called an “unusual atmospheric pattern,” that is clear skies under high pressure that promoted a strong melt and at the same time winds brought warm air into the region.

These exceptional years became statistically important as using them to guide a straight line through the Arctic ice decline made its gradient even steeper.

A New “Pause?”
Examining the sea ice extent data for the past eight years it is obvious that there has not been any statistically significant downward trend, even though there is more noise (interannual variability) in the data. There are interannual variations but they do not form a trend. For the 2002 – 2006 period the annual differences are mostly in the extent of maximum and not minimum ice cover. The period 1990 – 1996 displays much more interannual variability. The main difference between the ice-curves is that in recent years there has been an increase in the gradient around the beginning of June.

Of the general decline and the interannual variability how much is due to external forcing and how much to internal variability? Estimate from climate models give about equal measure to forcing and internal variability, Kay et al (2011)Stroeve et al (2012).That 50% internal variability is almost never illustrated graphically when presenting Arctic ice data.

That the minimal extent of Arctic ice has “paused” is admitted by Swart et al (2015) “…from 2007–2013 there was a near-zero trend in observed Arctic September sea-ice extent, in large part due to a strong uptick of the ice-pack in 2013, which has continued into 2014.”

Swart et al (2015) maintain that “cherry-picking” such short periods can be “misleading about longer-term changes, when such trends show either rapid or slow ice loss.”

History Repeating?

The situation with this “pause” in Arctic ice reminds me of the early days of the annual average surface temperature “pause.” When it was first raised, around 2007 with then an estimated 5-year duration, it was dismissed as being cherry-picking and being well within the internal variability of the models, Researchers then looked at similar periods throughout the surface temperature data and the climate models and asked what the likelihood was of a period of no change, just like what Swart et al (2015) have done for the Arctic ice. Back in 2008 the UK Met Office said that climate models regularly showed eight-year pauses but not ten years. Then it was a ten-year pause and, of course, the models were able to explain that after all, and so on even as many viewed the “pause” as increasingly problematical. The analytical approach to the “pause” in Arctic ice is repeating that of the surface temperature “pause.”

Something may indeed have changed in the pattern of Arctic ice melting. The decline that was already in progress when satellite observations were started in 1979 show that Arctic ice was shrinking even before human effects were strong (Fig 3), although the decline between 1979 and about the mid-1990s is not that significant! The extent of minimum Arctic melting may have paused over the past eight years. It will be interesting to see if it continues in the future. But whatever happens the big question will remain. Is it caused by internal variability masking continuing human-induced-sea-ice loss? Or has internal variability over decadal periods since 1979 been misinterpreted as human-induced decline?

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Fig 3 (click to enlarge)

Feedback: david.whitehouse@thegwpf.com

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Comments (25)

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    We should enjoy and rejoice the fact we continue to come out of an ice age .
    This is not Goldilocks and the three bears where we get to pick the perfect temperature, or control it as some suggest we do by tweeking CO2.
    If the Arctic ice was in decline it didn’t start when Henry Ford started spitting out cars .

    Personally I hope it is in a warming cycle
    because the opposite would be far more
    of concern .

    A lot of the Global Warming High priests have bought waterfront properties with their new found wealth so clearly they are not seriously concerned.They have pulled a lucrative scam though as waterfront never comes cheap .

    Maybe now is the time to buy soon to be waterfront lots in the Arctic .

    • Avatar

      Leslie Graham

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      Hilarious.
      The lowest winter extent on record and you guys still stick your fingers in your ears and yell La La La.
      10 years ago this level of denial was already boring. 5 years ago it became pathetic.
      Now you just sound insane.

      • Avatar

        Robert

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        So all you have is name calling and claims that “it really is happening.”

        Provide some sources, demonstrate with some empirical evidence that any thing you assert in the above or below comments has any validity at all.

        How about you demonstrate that you have the common decency to shut up and get out of the way so people who understand the science far better than you don’t have to hear more of the same noise we’ve been hearing from you sort for decades now.

        1 – Based on your comments you haven’t established that you are one of the “grown-ups”

        2 – It is not “our mess”

        3 – No one asked you to clean up “our mess” because A) we didn’t make one, and B) we, unlike you, are capable of cleaning up after ourselves, we don’t need the government or a nanny state to do it

        What are you going be throwing tantrums over next Leslie? More of your “observable schoolboy facts” that no one is buying because the actual observations don’t support the claims? Must suck to be you when every time you open your mouth stupid comes out.

      • Avatar

        Robert

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        Define “winter extent.”

        Then explain how so may record cold temps were set or broken.

        Then explain how amount of snowfall does not mean it was warmer or colder, as it depends on both moisture content of the air and temperature.

        Then explain how many areas in the northern hemisphere have predictions of snow for over the next few weeks.

        Your comments mean nothing because they contain nothing. How fitting that you use the phrase “lal lal la” as that is all you are doing, coming here with no clue and repeating the same drivel we’ve been hearing for years without any capability to support it.

        The only one who sounds insane here is you.

        So tell me, do you support the Greenpeace activist who calls for the beheading of skeptics? Do you? While we think you are an idiot we’re content to let you be an idiot, we aren’t calling for your beheading. Yet the people you think aren’t insane are people who do call for beheading of skeptics, create videos of skeptics being blown up, talk about tattooing skeptics just like a certain ethnic group was tattooed in Germany, and the list goes on.

        So tell us Leslie, who sounds insane? Or aren’t you sane enough yourself to tell? You haven’t shown us anything yet to indicate you are.

      • Avatar

        amirlach

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        Lowest Evah? BS! [img]https://stevengoddard.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/screenhunter_8271-apr-04-07-20.gif[/img]
        [quote]They used to cry volume when extent was high, and cry extent when volume was high.They used to cry volume when extent was high, and cry extent when volume was high.
        This time they are lying about both extent and volume. Extent is higher than 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011.
        [/quote] https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/arctic-size-matters/

        [quote]10 years ago this level of denial was already boring. 5 years ago it became pathetic.[/quote] We feel your pain! Really we do… We have endured the alarmists denial of the reality and you guys still sticking your fingers in your ears and going La La La over the abysmal failure of the AGW “hypothesis”, for over 19 years now.

        Ever you Co2 Socialists yell FORWARD!
        [img]http://wizbangblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ForwardLenin-300×229.jpg[/img]

    • Avatar

      Leslie Graham

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      We are not ‘coming out of an ice age’ we are in an interglacial.
      The global temperature had been slowly falling since the end of the Holocene Climatic Optimum arond 7000 years ago.
      The clue is in the name.
      Then around the turn of the century the global temperature suddenly spiked, reversing the entire 7000 years of slow cooling in a century.
      These are simple observable schoolboy level facts known throughout the world for decades.
      It’s over guys.
      If you don’t have the guts to admit that events have long ago proved you wrong at least have the common decency to shut up and get out of the way while the grown-ups try to clean up your mess for you.

      • Avatar

        prestigio

        |

        you could be
        dangerous if
        you knew what you
        speak of

      • Avatar

        JayPee

        |

        You say we are in an interglacial. Oh, really. Would you care to explain why there are massive glaciers in both hemispheres which have been there for all of recorded history ?

        I don’t think you’ll try to explain because you can’t. Proselytizing blind faith clowns like you come around from time to time and are easily confronted and thwarted because there is no logic nor fact in support of their dogma.

      • Avatar

        amirlach

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        So if temperatures 7000 years ago were an “optimum” and todays temperatures are not even close, what’s the problem again? And how is the worlds worst system of government supposed to fix it?[quote]Then around the turn of the century the global temperature suddenly spiked, reversing the entire 7000 years of slow cooling in a century.[/quote] Bull Shit!
        [img]http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/graphs/lappi/gisp-last-10000-new.png[/img]

        [quote]These are simple observable schoolboy level facts known throughout the world for decades.
        It’s over guys.
        If you don’t have the guts to admit that events have long ago proved you wrong at least have the common decency to shut up and get out of the way while the grown-ups try to clean up your mess for you.[/quote] Pure projection! Nothing you said above is remotely true. What has proven us wrong? The Failed models? The refuted AGW “hypothesis”? Or the Fiddled data?

        Maybe you should “Shut Up” until you understand what the actual unadjusted data says.

  • Avatar

    Dan Pangburn

    |

    Existing data and rudimentary math prove that CO2 has no significant effect on climate.

    Existing data includes temperature and CO2 determined from Vostok, Antarctica ice cores for several glacial and inter-glacial periods.

    Temperature and CO2 (Berner, 2001) for the entire Phanerozoic eon (about 542 million years) are graphed at http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html ).

    A forcing must act for a duration to produce a temperature change. For example, a burner under a block of iron will cause the temperature of the block of iron to increase as long as the net forcing is positive. The burner is a positive forcing while radiation and convection from the block provide a negative forcing. The temperature asymptotically approaches a new steady-state temperature as the positive and negative forcings approach cancelling each other. The temperature change of the block at any time equals a scale factor times the time-integral of the net forcing up to that time.

    If the temperatures at the beginning and end of the duration are equal, and the time-integral of the forcing (or the time-integral with respect to an average forcing, or the time-integral with respect to a threshold forcing) is not zero, the scale factor must be zero. Periods of equal beginning and ending temperatures exist in the data records. If beginning and end temperatures are equal, but the time-integral of the CO2 level (or difference) is not zero, the scale factor must be zero and thus CO2 can have no significant effect on average global temperature.

    Climate sensitivity, (the increase in AGT due to doubling of CO2) is therefore not significantly different from zero.

    Additional proof showing that CO2 has no significant effect on climate and identification of the two factors that do are disclosed at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com

    • Avatar

      Gator

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      I don’t know Dan. Beer releases CO2, and after enough beer trapped CO2 is released, women do appear hotter.

      [img]http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/01/20140114_beer.jpg[/img]

      In may have to seek a grant for further studies. How much [s]beer[/s] grant money do you suppose I should ask for?

      • Avatar

        JayPee

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        Grant money for this purpose would be far more deserving than feeding Al Gore and his parrots from the public trough

    • Avatar

      Leslie Graham

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      Actualy, existing data and rudimentary math prove that CO2 has a hugely significant effect on climate and it has done so for over 115 years now.
      You know the good thing about science is it’s true whether you belive it or not. And now that AGW and climate change is simply an obvious everyday reality all over the Earth the last-of-the-deniers just sound insane.

      • Avatar

        Gator

        |

        Hey Leslie! I am busy with family functions tonight, but please do me two favors.

        1- List [i]all[/i] climate forcings, order them from most to least effective, and then [i]quantify[/i] them.

        2- Please provide [i]even one[/i] peer reviewed paper that refutes natural variability as the cause of recent, or any, global climate changes.

        There is nothing unusual or unprecedented about our climate, or how we got here. For 4,500,000,000 years climates have always changed, naturally. This means there has been a set precedent, and the burden of proof falls on natural climate change deniers like yourself.

        In am willing to discuss this with you further tomorrow, but if you need more time, I more than understand. 😉

      • Avatar

        Robert

        |

        Hate to break it to you Leslie, but climate change was always a reality.

        However the fact that you have to resort to the D word shows us who the insane one really is.

        Yep, “science is true whether you believe it or not” spoken by someone who obviously doesn’t understand science so how would you know if it was true?

        Science isn’t true or false, science is a methodology, it is either followed or it is not in which case one is not doing things scientifically.

        Now, when the empirical observations refute the models, and “the science” is based entirely upon models, then the hypothesis is wrong. Yet you still cling to it. Come back after you learn what science is so we can have some more fun.

      • Avatar

        amirlach

        |

        [quote]Actualy, existing data and rudimentary math prove that CO2 has a hugely significant effect on climate and it has done so for over 115 years now.[/quote] Yet Co2 Socialists cannot make a single skillful prediction after wasting Billions on a refuted hypothesis?

        Nope! Sorry, but the “existing” data in no way supports the failed AGW “hypothesis”.
        [quote]
        This beautiful graph was posted at Roy Spencer’s and WattsUp, and no skeptic should miss it. I’m not sure if everyone appreciates just how piquant, complete and utter the failure is here. There are no excuses left. This is as good as it gets for climate modelers in 2013.

        John Christy used the best and latest models, he used all the models available, he has graphed the period of the fastest warming and during the times humans have emitted the most CO2. This is also the best data we have. If ever any model was to show the smallest skill, this would be it. None do.
        [/quote]
        [img]https://informativestats.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/hayden_ipcc_arrow.jpg[/img]

        After every single warmist model failed, the scientific method dictates that one must “adjust” the theory to fit the observations.

        Professor Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics said,

        “It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.”

        Instead Co2 Socialists have been repeatedly caught fudging the data to fit the failed models. This is anti-science at it’s finest. Or Lysenkoisim, as some would call it.
        [quote]Lysenkoism is used metaphorically to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.[/quote] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

        The true deniers are those who still insist Co2 is a problem after empirical observations have proven otherwise. No warming for 19 years and counting…

        • Avatar

          Gator

          |

          Hey amirlach! I missed that latest graphic, but then I don’t get to Watts site as often as I used to. I am stealing that! 😉

          But I do have to disagree with one of your statements…

          [quote]Yet Co2 Socialists cannot make a single skillful prediction after wasting [i]Billions[/i] on a refuted hypothesis?[/quote]

          It is now [i]trillions[/i] of dollars wasted. Just sayin’.

          Anybody heard from Leslie? 😆

          • Avatar

            Gator

            |

            Now I understand Leslie’s concern…

            [b]Head Coach-Leslie Graham[/b]
            [i]Leslie is in her 2nd season as Head Coach of the WMU Synchronized Skating Teams, after serving as the assistant coach from 2006-2007. She is also the Head Coach of the WMU Alumni Team. She brings 16 years of synchronized skating experience to the teams. At WMU, Leslie won 3 Collegiate National medals, as well as 2 international medals. She was President of the WMU Skating Club her Junior and Senior years. Prior to WMU, Leslie skated for the Colonial organization, where she competed as part of Team USA. Leslie is certified rated in team skating with Professional Skaters Association. She has served on the Collegiate Program Committee, and is currently serving on the Athletes Advisory Committee for US Figure Skating. Leslie earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in Business Management.[/i]

            http://www.rso.wmich.edu/skating/coaching-staff.html

            [img]http://snowbrains.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/700.jpg[/img]

          • Avatar

            Robert

            |

            When I was living out west a few years back the “pond” behind the apartment complex I was in was where the fire rescue teams would train for that type of thing in the winter. I could hang out on the deck and watch them go through the entire routine from setting up on shore to going out on the ice.

            As I’ve said before, we have more to worry from a cooling climate than a warming one. History shows us that though apparently liberals/progressives/leftists are as bad at history as they are at economics.

            I’m still waiting for one of them to tell me what the ideal climate is, at what temperature, and what they were smoking/drinking that made them think we have a snowballs chance in a bonfire of keeping it there IF we can get it there to begin with.

          • Avatar

            Gator

            |

            I just hope the rescue was a success, and that Leslie is OK.

          • Avatar

            amirlach

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            Oh my… Your photo shopped proof of Sochi Warming has made me completely reconsider my Skepticism … Or was that cynicism?

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Please show us the “rudimentary math ” Leslie . CO2 increase is certain and measurable but the model predictions have grossly overstated any warming .

    The “insane deniers “you refer to, are from what I have seen, bright ,intelligent people who care about our planet. They, for the most part , just don’t accept the gross exaggeration and fearing mongering , which undermines the credibility of the scary global warming believers .

    If it was just about the science there would not be the polarization.

    I respect your opinion in any event .

  • Avatar

    Greg

    |

    I’m old enough that whenever the warmist make hysterical statements about extreme weather events I have to smile.
    To hear them blather you’d think the pre mid 20th century was like Camelot where it never rained before sundown.
    There couldn’t possibly have been any droughts in that perfect world, that never really existed.

    For the AGW crowd they can feel smarter and morally superior simply by continually spouting the party line.
    They never offer any actual solutions to the supposed problem, but demand that others be extorted into spending billions on R&D to do that work for them, while the flow of ridiculous “scientific” papers published by hacks choke out the entire academic process.

    All that’s necessary to get a favorable review is to endlessly repeat what others have written, just sprucing up the language here and there, and any paper that does explore alternative answers for various phenomena must include an obligatory and totally un necessary caveat that the work in no way challenges the politically correct ‘consensus”.

    • Avatar

      JayPee

      |

      Worse yet, they have NEVER submitted ANY PROOF of their fundamental underlying claim that there is a greenhouse effect or gasses as they have arrogantly defined the to be.

      Their fundamental assumption is not only unproven by them but disproven through the logical inconsistency of their argument.

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